Saturday, July 2, 2011

God's Message to our Nation (Prov. 14:34)

God's Message to our Nation

(Prov. 14:34 - “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.”)

This statement here in the book of Proverbs is not just made to the nation of Israel, it was made to all nations. I believe that this statement is what God would say to the USA, if He spoke audibly to us on this Forth of July holiday. We celebrate this holiday that in 1776 the USA declared independence as a nation from Great Britain. That we became a sovereign and independent nation and established our own laws, freedoms, privileges, and these rights were fought for and won by our forefathers. One thing our forefathers did was to acknowledge and seek God's divine hand in founding this nation. Although our nation began seeking independence from a oppressive nation and government to self-rule, our forefathers made sure we did not have independence from the mighty hand of God that allowed them to found our nation. Those men who were instrumental in the foundation of this nation saw from history the nations have fallen and failed and recognized unless God blessed the establishment of this nation that it would fail also. Today, we will see if we still heed to the word of God or if we have declared independence from God also.

I. The Righteousness of a Nation (“Righteousness”).

Let's look at the first word of this verse, “righteousness”. This is a word that we don't often hear outside of a Bible-believing church. You won't hear it from the news media or uttered by one of our politicians on Capitol Hill and certainly not from the White House. This word makes this world uncomfortable because it brings up ideas of right and wrong and that there are consequences for our unrighteousness. There are three implications of the word righteousness that our sinful nation does not want to consider.

A. 1st implication: Sovereignty – to say there is such a thing as righteousness means that there is a Sovereign God that has determined what righteousness is and means. If righteousness was only a human idea and concept then we would still be fighting over what is righteous and unrighteous. God has declared what is righteous and He alone is the authority on righteousness. Ps. 71:19 says, “Your righteousness, O God, is very high, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You?” and Ps. 98:2 says, “The LORD has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations”. If righteousness is considered by our world then it must acknowledge God is the One who has determined what is righteousness.

B. 2nd Implication: A Standard – to say that there is a right and wrong, good and evil, or righteous and unrighteous is to say that there is a higher standard or a higher law that determines this. It says that there is a God who has given a standard of righteousness. We have that standard and you can hold it in your hands and read it whenever you want to, it God's written Word, the Bible. Today's society doesn't want to have a standard because if reveals their sins and unrighteousness. It declares their condemnation in the eyes of God. That's why our nation rejects God and His Word. Our founding fathers held the Bible and Christianity in high esteem. Sadly, today this nation despises the Bible, God's righteous standard and wants to attack Christianity and silence it's voice.

C. 3rd Implication: A Straightness – even if our nation admits there is a standard of righteousness, unless they make it their own standard that admission is useless. The word for righteousness in Hebrew in this verse indicates a personal righteousness, a personal morality. Our forefathers chose to believe and follow the righteousness of the Bible in the founding of our nation.

II. The Reward of a Nation (“...exalts a nation”).

Here God is saying that if a nation regards and follows His righteousness then he would exalt that nation. To look at our history, we can see the hand of God blessing on us. That we were once exalted as a nation. We once were blessed with greatness because we were good (in the moral sense). Our churches grew and shined the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world, at home and abroad. We used to acknowledge that God was the reason for our greatness but now our nation glories in the ingenuity and determination of the people and it's government. We as a nation must again turn to God and acknowledge that the birth and growth of this nation rests on His divine goodness and mercy for it was by the power of His hands and providence that this nation came into being. Because of God we have been blessed, prosperous, and mighty. His presence has kept us safe and strong during war and disasters, (Ps. 20:7 - “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God”), some believe “In Government we trust” instead of “In God We Trust”. But now, for our so-called governmental leaders to ignore and even try to outlaw God's words from being placed or spoken in the places of government buildings is to ignore the humble and righteous beginning of our nation and in the hearts of our nation's founding fathers. The height of blessings for this nation was when they sought to live out the righteousness of God. “Righteousness exalts a nation.”

III. The Revolt and Reproach of a Nation: (“But sin is a reproach to any people.”).

We now come to the worst part of what a nation chooses over God. If righteousness exalts a nation then sin destroys it. Where America once denounced sin and evil in it's society has turned around 180º. Today, people seek out false religions and false gods, they want a religion and a god of their own choosing. One that will fit their definition of a lifestyle and accommodate their particular pet sin. They view God, if they believe in one, as a loving merciful Being that doesn't condemn anyone or their lifestyle. They honestly believe that God grades on a curve and surely would not send anyone to Hell for a sin. Some really want a God that is loving, merciful, and kind and the God of Christianity fulfills that desire. But, the true God of the Bible is merciful and loving but He is also a holy God of wrath, judgment and condemnation. Our society today wants the first part but not the second part. The true God of the Bible is a holy God that must judge sin and the sinner. God does not look over someone's sins, He judges and punishes sin and this world wants nothing to do with that. So now they worship false gods and goddesses and find a tailor-made religion that condones their sins. To admit we are sinful is to admit we have done wrong and cannot live up to the standards of God's holy moral law. His standard for righteousness and holiness is His own. The Bible says in Rom. 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, there is no one who has or will live up to that standard (except Christ). Our nation has decided to not pursue moral greatness anymore. In fact like I just previously said, our society does not honor what is good and right but has turned 180º and now glorifies the sinful and the perverted. We now honor and reward evil. What was good and moral is now considered evil and what is sinful and perverted is now the good. Look at our culture, our music glorifies sex outside of marriage, it glorifies murder and rape and drug/alcohol abuse as a mark of greatness and criminals as being heroic. Our churches once frowned upon and denounced women having children out of wedlock are now just glad that if they don't listen to society and murder their unborn child through abortion. Homosexuality was once seen as the perverted sin as it is but now our country has gay pride parades and the worst thing about it now women are the ones leading those perverted parades forsaking the God given role of being moms to act like men and men acting like women. Don't take God's mercy as God being weak, it says this in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”, that promise that Peter mentions is God's judgment on a sinful, evil world; it says that He is “longsuffering” which means that He is mercifully extending the time until His judgment so that more sinners have the opportunity to repent and turn in faith to salvation in Christ. God will judge sinners and those who refuse His Son will eternally burn in the Lake of Fire. America is committing the act of murder of the unborn and has established a law that gives sinful, silly women that godless right to do so; there are approx. 4,000 abortions a day in America (that's a lot of innocent blood crying out for God's justice). America glorifies in it's sins and justifies it by calling it “tolerance”. In God's eyes it is still sin and America will have to answer for it. Sin brings reproach that means that one becomes disgraced, dishonored, and defeated. We can say that about America today. The disgrace of our supposed leaders both politically and spiritually caught in adulterous affairs, homosexual perversions, embezzling, and taking bribes. We are a disgrace to other nations and we are lost honor and status to other nations. If it continues, I fear that the course we are on will cause our fall as a nation and defeat at the hands of other nations. From all that has happened in just the last 10 years to our nation testifies of a coming defeat. Because this nation and it's leadership openly defies God and seeks to go on without His help, God will abandon this nation to it's sins. The church in America can also be blamed for not making a moral stand against the evil that is taking over this nation. Instead of the church changing the world, the world is changing the church. Now, I know that not all churches have compromised and I thank God for that but we must stand in the gap for this nation, praying like we never have before, that America will turn back to the one, true God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Looking at the news about our economy, disasters (oil spill in Gulf, Katrina, 9/11, wild weather, etc.), and the no-win war in the Middle-East; I believe God is giving us a taste of what it can be like without His presence and blessing on our nation.

Can we be blessed again by God as a nation. Yes, we can, but we have to turn our hearts again to God in repentance and seek Him to heal our land. I'll end with this verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14 - “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land”. I believe it's time to pray!

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cleaning House: Jesus Cleanses the Temple (John 2:13-25)

Cleaning House:

Jesus Cleanses the Temple (First Time)

(John 2:13-25)

Today, we look at where Jesus cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem. Christ did this twice. In this passage in John is the first time and in Matthew 21 is the second time. Jesus drives out the corrupt merchandisers here at the beginning of His earthly ministry and the second time was at the end of His ministry right after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As always there is a reason Jesus did this. He was angry and He had reason to be angry. We are going to see why Jesus did what He did there and the reason for His anger, to see and understand why Jesus cleansed the Temple. Today's sermon is 'Cleaning House'.

I. Bad Business As Usual (v. 13-14 - Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business).

Passover had begun in Jerusalem and Jesus like so many other Jews went there to worship at the Temple. One commentator I read said that there were an overwhelming 2 million Jews that were there. The Jews came from all over the known world at that time making the pilgrimage to the Temple to carry out Passover. It was standard custom that every male Jew that were 12 years and over to go there every year at Passover time. On the tenth day of Passover a male lamb was taken. On the fourteenth day between three and six o'clock the male lamb was slaughtered and that night they had a feast. The feast was called the Passover Feast and it was to commemorate the passing over of the angel of death in Egypt in the ancient history of Israel. This was the scene when Jesus and His disciples came to Jerusalem. On the Temple grounds there were different areas like the Court of the Women, Court of the Priests, and the Court of the Gentiles and the real Temple was a little area there and was divided into two parts, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Where they sold the sacrificial animals and had the money changers was an 14 acre area called the Court of the Gentiles. It was the outer most area of the Temple grounds and here is where the problem that Jesus had a problem with. As we know the Jewish pilgrims had to present a sacrifice according to there means. Those who were well off offered the bulls or sheep and those that were poor offered a dove. To have a place to purchase an animal was easier for those traveling a great distance not to have to bring an animal along. Another thing was that every male Jew had to pay a temple tax of half a shekel every year and if one could not come it was sent through those who did come. The problem wasn't the selling of animals and other things needed for sacrifice, it was in the fact that the temple leaders were corrupt and greedy. The animals sold were either owned and sold by the High Priest and his family or people who were endorsed by them. Remember the sacrificial animals had to be defect free and if you bought it from one of them it was guaranteed to be used. If you brought your own they found any defect they could. Not only that they charged an exorbitant amount for them, an ancient historian of the time basically wrote that they were, in our money terms, selling nickel priced doves for $4.00. And the temple offering of a half shekel had to be exchanged for temple money. Most people carried and used the coin of the Roman empire that had Caesar's image on it and therefore could not be accepted into the temple treasury so it was exchanged here in the court of the Gentiles for a fee of course. These false family of High Priests were ripping off everyone who was coming to worship. They made it into a circus of loud bickering, pushing crowds of pilgrims, and the cha-ching of money being exchanged instead of a solemn time of worship. This is the greed and irreverence that Jesus encounters at the Temple at Jerusalem. This is the background we find when Jesus walks in.

II. Christ Cleanses the Temple (v. 15-17 - When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.").

In the mess of this greedy sin and irreverence, Jesus becomes angry. It is holy indignation and Jesus looks around sees the cords of ropes lying strewn on the ground from the animals and makes it into a nice whip. He finishes making it and immediately begins to clean house. He beats the oxen and sheep out of the temple court, whips the people selling the animals out, turns over the money exchange tables and pours out the money, and it simply says Jesus drove them all out. And shouts to them all, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!”. This is not the portrait most churches paint of Jesus today, to them it's all about the love of Jesus and none of Jesus' hatred of sin. There must be a balance between the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” and the “wrath of the Lamb” against sin. Jesus could not tolerate this blasphemy of His “Father's House”; He could tolerate how they made light of this place of worship. Jesus took that whip and went left and right and drove all of those people out. And notice that no one stopped Jesus, not the temple guard, not the priests, not the sellers, not the buyers, not anyone. I believe they saw in the Lamb of God that day a small glimpse of Jesus the judge, in Rev. 6:16-17 it says, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! "For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”. The wrath of Christ was felt on a few backs that day and none dared stopped Him. Jesus is our savior from sin but for those who ignore that message there is laid up for them the full measure of the wrath of the Lamb (John 5:22 - For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son). Jesus hates sin and we as the children of God must hate the things that Jesus hates and love the things that He loves, we must be sickened and infuriated by the perversions of this world that the world loves and condones and to only love the righteous things of God. Those corrupt priests who changed the focus of worshiping, giving glory to God, and leading the people to worship God in repentance, changed it over to religious works and greed. The temple was about worship and the revealing of the truth of God in the future sacrifice of the Son but the corrupt priesthood made it all about them. We have churches today that have sacrificed the truth of God for lies that draw a lot of people and money without anyone feeling guilty about sin. People need to know Jesus hates sin and that's why Jesus died for us.

III. Christ's Authority Because He is Deity (v. 18-22 - So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said).

The rulers of the temple asked Jesus something here in v. 18. They didn't want to know why He drove out the sellers in the temple but by what authority He did it. They didn't ask why Jesus cleansed the temple because they knew they were guilty because it was wrong, they blasphemed the worship of God and committed the sin of usury against their own people. So knowing that they were called on their wrong by Jesus, they had an idea that Jesus was the Messiah but they asked for a sign to prove He was the Son of God, that He had the authority to call them on their sin. What Jesus had just did was proof enough for it fulfilled a prophecy in Malachi 3:1-2, “And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire And like launderer's soap”. It is a prophecy of Christ cleansing the temple. But Jesus told them of the sign He would give them and it was His resurrection. That He could lay down His life and take it back up again because only God in the flesh could do that.

In the cleansing of the temple Christ shows us His condemnation of sin (hatred and judgment of sin) and also He showed us His cure of sin in the death and resurrection of Jesus. When I heard the gospel message, I found out about how sinful I was and how it condemns me and I felt the guilt of my sin and the fear of facing the wrath of God; then I was told how Jesus loved me enough that He died for me and rose from the dead to justify me before God the Father. We as the children of God need to hate sin and evil just as much as Jesus did. We need to be sickened and put off by the perversions of this world and learn to love the holiness and purity of Christ our Savior. And we need to tell the world that only Jesus can save from sin and they don't have to face the wrath of the Lamb. There is salvation and hope found in the finished work of salvation in Christ. The greatest sign of who He was, His power, and His authority is found in His resurrection. All that Christ did and said has meaning in the power of His resurrection. We as Christians need to know that our salvation and hope for resurrection is found in Christ's resurrection.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Woman, A Well, and the Way of Salvation (John 4:1-29)

A Woman, A Well, and the Way of Salvation

(John 4:1-29)

This passage is well known to many who have read the Gospels; Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus has a divine appointment with this woman who was an outcast even to her own people, the Samaritans. Jesus uses thirst and the well of Jacob as an example and opportunity to lovingly reveal Himself as her Savior from sin. Today the sermon is called: A Woman, A Well, and the Way of Salvation.

I. Divine Appointment (v. 1-7a - Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water).

Jesus was always about His Father's business. And this time was no different. Jesus did everything according to the will of His Father; every miracle or healing, every word He spoke, and every place that Jesus went was for the glory of the Father and by the leading of the Spirit. We see by verses 3 & 4, that Jesus left Judea to go to Galilee and it says “ He needed to go through Samaria”. Jesus and His disciples left Judea traveling through Samaria to eventually get to Galilee. But Jesus made a stop at Jacob's well in Samaria, He had this divine appointment to meet a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, the Heavenly Father set the time and date and place, and Jesus was there. Jesus sat down by the well being tired from walking in the heat. We know that Jesus is God but this also reminds us that God the Son added humanity to Himself and Christ's human body was tired and thirsty. Here is an example from Jesus that we need to also emulate. Jesus is at the well to meet this Samaritan woman. Jesus was there at the place God the Father wanted Him to be, He was there at the time God wanted Him to be there, and Jesus was there willingly, His only desire to do the Father's will. Now, do we do the same? To be honest, we usually go where we desire to go, when we want to, and do things according to our will and desire. But we need to be like our Lord, to be in God's place, at God's time, with a desire to do God's will. Jesus said in Matt. 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”; let's start by first seeking to do the will of the Kingdom of God instead of seeking the kingdom of self. We can do that by viewing our lives as opportunities to glorify God. Look for divine appointments to tell someone about Jesus, that what this appointment was about, Jesus graciously and lovingly revealing Himself as Lord and Savior. Now let's look at this divine appointment this woman had with Jesus.

II. Divine Encounter (v. 7-26 - A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly." The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He.").

We now see this is who Christ was waiting for, He is watching the approach of the Samaritan woman to this well. And Jesus asks her for a drink. The woman is startled at Him talking to her because cultural standards of the time was that men did not address women in public, because it was beneath a man to acknowledge women in public. Secondly, her reply of “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” showed a embarrassing fact that Jews despised Samaritans. Jews did not even walk through Samaria, except Jesus. A “good” Jew would not set foot into Samaria, in fact, to get to Galilee from Judea, a Jew would cross the Jordan from Judea into Galilee, up the eastern side of the Jordan until the they got to Galilee, very much out of the way instead of the shortest route straight through Samaria.

There was bad blood from the time of the divided Kingdom of Israel and Judah. Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians and the people of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, that was left were taken into captivity never to return (lost 10 tribes). Judah years later, was defeated by Babylon and those not killed were taken into captivity to Babylon. After 70 years, Judah (tribes of Judah and Benjamin) returned under Nehemiah to Jerusalem. Under Nehemiah and Ezra, the city walls and temple were rebuilt but of course not to the full glory as once before. Any remaining Jews that were in Israel (Ephraim) intermarried with what pagan peoples settled in that land. After Judah rebuilt in Jerusalem a temple to worship God, the half-breed Samaritans wanted to worship in the temple but were forbidden by the full-blooded Jews. So the half-breed Samaritans set a false temple in Samaria on Mt. Gerezim. So there was bad blood, wars fought, and the Jews destroying the Samaritan temple completely. Bad blood between the two and the Jews despised them and vice versa. To the Jew, Samaritans were unredeemable, worse than a Gentile. And Jesus asks her for a drink, Jesus didn't have any thing to draw from the well and He did not have a cup to drink from. Jesus was asking to drink from her own pitcher or pot, unthinkable to any Jew because that broke down that cultural and social barrier formed out of hate, to drink from or use a utensil of a gentile and especially a Samaritan was considered to defile a Jew (traditional view, not biblical). She recognized Jesus as a Jew, His facial features, noticed His clothing, maybe the blue hem that a rabbi wore. But not only was she a Samaritan but also she was an outcast from her community. She came at a place to draw water that was over a ½ mile away from town. Towns built around a water source and those particular hills had an abundant amount of springs, Dr John MacArthur comments that, “What in the world is she doing a half a mile away from the village? Well, she had to come a long ways. Why? No water? Plenty of water. Water coming out of the springs in the Judean hillsides all over the place. Why did she go a half mile away? Because she was an outcast. Very likely because of the background that she had, the other women didn't want her around”. We see in verse 18 that she was most likely a prostitute for she had had 5 husbands and now just living with a man, in those days and even among the Samaritans, it was taboo behavior and it made her an outcast. In spite of all this, as He crushes these barriers to present His salvation to her, Christ begins to reveal Himself to her. Jesus answers her by saying, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water”. Jesus is offering her salvation, the gift of God is salvation in the Son of God. In chapter 3, we saw that Jesus offers salvation to Nicodemus (a guy that supposed to have it right and supposedly very moral) and now He offers His grace and mercy to this Samaritan outcast (the polar opposite of Nicodemus). It seems that the love of Jesus Christ is not based on our merit or capability of being lovable or our capability of loving God back, salvation is based on the love of God towards us through Christ (1 John 4:19 - “We love Him because He first loved us”). We are saved and cleansed from sin because He chose to love us just like he chose to love this woman, Jesus' love is truly unconditional. We see Jesus is using a natural or physical example to convey a spiritual truth. But we also see she misunderstands Him. Jesus is speaking to her need, a need for a Savior, and she really not understanding her need and Jesus' answer to her spiritual need to be saved. She tells Jesus that you don't have anything to draw up the water with, so how do you plan to get water, is there some easier way to get water from this deep well. Do you know someway to get the water from Jacob's well that even he didn't know? Jesus then clarifies it even more for her by telling her that He has water that can satisfy her parched, dead, dry, spiritually lifeless soul; like real water satisfies her physical thirst, His living life-giving water can give life to her spirit and she will never thirst again. He told her, drink of this well of Jacob and you'll thirst again but if you drink of His salvation, His life giving water, a gushing and living water that will be inside of you, springing up into eternal life. She barely understanding that He is speaking in spiritual terms, she kind of gets it and says, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw”, let me drink from your well! She understands more than she lets on. But Jesus not only tells her she has a spiritual need of salvation but also shows her why she needs salvation, He reveals her sinfulness, “Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly”. We can tell people how they need Jesus, we can tell them how much that Jesus loves them and gave His life on the cross for them but they will never understand unless we tell them how lost in their sins they are. We can just like this woman she wants to drink but Jesus shows her that sin is keeping her from the living water. She desires the gift of salvation, she sees her sins keeping her from eternal life, and now she desires to make it right with God, so she makes this statement and asks this question, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship”; what is she talking about? She tells Jesus, “I know your from God because you, a total stranger, told me of the living water and told me everything wrong in my life, I just want to know where I got to go worship and what I have to perform ritually and religiously to earn this living water, this salvation”. Jesus breaks it down by telling her, that the real temple worship was in Jerusalem but this doesn't matter because “the time will come and now is, when true worshipers of God will worship Him in Spirit and in truth”. So we see the way to come to God, the truth and the Spirit, the truth is Jesus. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, no way into the presence of God or in relationship unless we know the Truth, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the truth of God, the truth of life, the truth of salvation, the truth of forgiveness, the truth of reconciliation, the truth of redemption. The whole of spiritual truth is revealed in the one person of Jesus Christ. The Spirit brings to life the truth about Jesus, the Spirit convicts us, the Spirit of God produces repentance, and the faith to receive the person of salvation, Jesus Christ. Jesus brought her full face with who she needed to know personally to receive salvation and it will never be found in performing or joining a religion but only found in personally knowing Him as Lord and Savior. She goes on to say, and I think this is where she finally puts it all together and Jesus simply confirms it, “I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He"”. Jesus said in this statement, “I'm Him, your Messiah, your salvation, your God”. What does she do, v.28 tells us she immediately turns around leaves her water pot and goes back to the city.

III. Divinely Proclaimed (v. 28-30, 39-42 - The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" Then they went out of the city and came to Him.; And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.").

This woman did what the disciples failed to do. She went into Sychar and told everyone she could about Jesus, that He was the Messiah and Savior of the world. The disciples let their prejudice rob them of the blessing of leading them to Christ. By this no good outcast of a woman, salvation came to the Samaritans. And they received Him better than Jews did. And when they met Jesus, they believed who He said He was because they heard Him for themselves and believed His truth of salvation that He was the Savior of the world. We see the change in this woman; we can see the gradual realization of her growing in the knowledge of who Jesus was.

In verse 6, just meeting Jesus she called Him, “Jew”; then in verse 11, “sir” as her respect grows while talking to her; in verse 19 she then calls Him “prophet”; and in verse 25 she is finally figuring out He is Messiah, lastly she goes back and finally realizing in her heart that Jesus is the Christ and begins to proclaim it in her town (v.29). After she has her divine encounter and is saved, she shares Jesus with everyone in town and they receive Him as Lord also (v. 42 - “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world”). Jesus and the disciples stayed two days more with the Samaritans revealing who He was. Proclaiming the Kingdom of God and showing the disciples that He came to “seek and to save that which was lost”. We need to recognize our need for Jesus, we must proclaim to others their need for Jesus, and never let race, class, or social differences keep us from showing the love of God through Christ.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Mother's Faith (Matt. 15:21-28)

A Mother's Faith

(Matt. 15:21-28)

Since it is Mother’s Day, we are going to look at this mom who has come to seek out Jesus. The Bible says her child was demon possessed and after hearing about Jesus she comes to where He is and asks Him for His divine help. Today, we are going to look at this mom and her short conversation with Jesus and how her encounter with Jesus changed her world. We will see today this mother’s faith.

I. This Mother’s Trouble (v.22)

The verse says that this woman’s daughter was demon-possessed and I imagine she was at her wit’s end; she was in great desperation and in need of the power of God. This lady was not a Jew and we see that she was a gentile (v. 22 says ‘a woman of Canaan’). She was not a woman of the Jewish faith but she had heard of Jesus. Someone around her cared enough to tell her about Jesus. She heard about how Jesus was the Messiah and could heal the sick and cast out devils. In fact it says in Mark 7:25, ‘For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet’; In trouble, this mother turned to Jesus. Our need, like the prodigal son (starving and broke, at the lowest point, the only way to look is up), that kind of need is often the means of bringing us to the Father’s house, to the feet of Jesus, to seek His presence. This mother turned to Jesus. It is always wise to turn to the Savior in the hour of trouble. In v. 22, we can almost hear her desperate cry, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David’, it seems unusual that a Canaanite woman would call out to the Messiah of the Jews. But I believe she had a greater understanding of who Jesus was than the disciples or the nation of Israel. Here she cries out to Him in faith; from her desperation running to Him, falling before Him, and asking, begging for her daughter’s deliverance. This truly is a good mom who loves her daughter and would do anything to help her. This mom did the greatest and wisest thing she could do, she came to Jesus. This mother was interceding on behalf of her child; it is no telling how many godly mother’s have prayed great prayers of faith on behalf of their children. I’ve heard testimonies of people who would say how when everyone else had gave up on someone there was still a Christian mom who never gave up praying for them; never stopped praying for the salvation of their souls. I have personally seen hardened criminals that have no one but Mom faithfully coming to see them on visitation days at the prison. A good mom stills love their child regardless and never gives up; this mom did the best thing she could ever do for her daughter, she came to the Lord of All on her behalf. She had heard about this Messiah Jesus and she came believing He could change her hopeless situation. She was doing the best possible thing in her trouble.

II. This Mother’s Test (vv.23-26)

Prayer isn’t always immediately answered. Troubles and trials sometimes last a little longer than we think they should. Sometimes we are tested in our faith. But we are to be as persistent in our prayers, in seeking out an answer from God. This mother had a great faith, but she faced great testing. She made her cry to Jesus, but the answer did not come at once. There were many things to test her faith.

A. The Lord’s silence (v.23a)- she cried, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil’ and it says v.23, ‘But he answered her not a word’. How many times have you prayed and it seems that no one has heard you and there is no answer from God. His silence was not unconcern. He was testing her faith, as the Lord sometimes does. Remember how He put clay on the blind man’s eyes and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus could have healed with a word, but He believed in giving a test to their faith. The Lord sometimes delays His answers to our prayers in order to test, then to establish our faith. It was so with Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died. Jesus delayed, and they wondered at His absence and silence. But finally He appeared, even though Lazarus was dead, He called him out of the grave to life again, and brought a great blessing.

B. The disciples discourteousness (v.23b)- "And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us."

Between the silence of Jesus and the bad attitude of His followers, her faith was severely tested. The conduct of many of the Lord’s disciples is more likely to drive away than to attract. Most of us are sad representatives of the gracious Savior. The disciples did not understand the Lord's silence, and they thought that He did not care. Though they had been with Him for three years, they still did not know much about Jesus. It seems the ‘Gentile’ had a better grasp of who He was.

C. The Lord's apparent refusal was a testing of this mother’s faith (v.24)- Jesus answered and said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." She did not belong to the house of Israel; therefore, as a heathen Gentile she had no claim on Him as the Son of David. Jesus answered her in the same manner as she had addressed Him. It seemed that His words formed a positive refusal. What does that mean? Jesus was not there outside of Israel on a whim, He was there for a purpose and this lady and her trouble was to show that purpose. Jesus was talking to her, which He didn’t have to do but did so anyway because of just who He is. Still, she persists in seeking His help and doesn’t give up. This mom is a woman of faith and knows that her faith has reality in Jesus alone.

D. His rebuke (v.26)- As she continued to cry unto Him, He said, "It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs." This seemed a very sharp thing to say, but this mother understood and accepted the place in which Jesus put her. The ‘children’ here means Jews (Israel) and ‘dogs’ means Gentiles. The word used for dogs does not mean scavengers or wild beasts but “little dogs or pets”. His refusal and rebuke were even better than His silence. As He talked with her, she knew she was in touch with Him; and there was a possibility of receiving a positive answer. Though her faith was tested, she did not give up. This brings us to our third part of the story.

III. This Mother’s Triumph (vv.27-28) - 1 John 5:4, ‘For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.’

Faith gives victory. Nothing stopped this mother. She had faith in Christ and persistence to keep knocking at the door. She was not stopped by the silence of Christ, the discourtesy of the disciples, the refusal of the Lord or His rebuke.

When Christ said, "It is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs," she snared Him with His own words: "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters table." She knew her place before Jesus and she did arrogantly demand anything from God but graciously and humbly in faith ask and believed in her Savior was right there before her and could answer her prayer. She simply understood who He was and who she was before Him; her answer simply said that the Master's pet dog (Gentiles) ate only what the children (the Jews) refused to eat. His own people rejected Him and this encounter bought it to light even more, the Jews rejected Him and thus would begin the ministry to the Gentiles. Jesus had to answer her because of her knowledge of truly who He was but mostly because of her great faith in Him. It says there in verse 28, ‘Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour’. This great mother of faith received her answer from Jesus because Jesus is in the habit of rewarding faith. This woman possessed two wonderful characteristics: humility and faith. She was willing to take a humble place, and her faith was unwavering. "A broken and a contrite heart" He will not despise, and faith is the victory that overcomes the world. In the end she received more than she asked for. She was commended by the Lord for her faith: "0 woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. . . ." Her story of faith is written down for the whole world to read. Jesus did not commend her for her arguments, her patience nor her love, but for her faith. Finally, she was rewarded by the healing of her daughter: "And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." Her prayer was answered, her faith in Christ rewarded. We need more mothers who will bring Him their troubles and needs, then there would be more sons and daughters saved. Here is real encouragement for mothers who have prayed long and earnestly for their children. Though the years have gone by, be not dismayed—silence is not unconcern. Jesus kept this mother waiting, but His answer was above her expectations. Faith in Christ was the key that unlocked the store of blessing which she needed.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Humanity of Jesus (John 1:10-18)

The Humanity of Jesus

(John 1:10-18)

I want us to focus on v. 14, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”. Our last study on who Jesus is dealt with the fact that Jesus is God. Now we are going to look at the other nature of Christ, His incarnation, His humanity. At Christmas, I preached on His birth and we saw that through the scriptures that in Jesus' incarnation that He added humanity to His Deity, that in the one person of Jesus is two natures (God and human). We are going to see Jesus' humanity, that God the Son was incarnated. We are going to look at why Jesus became man.

Let look at some reasons why Jesus became a man:

I.1st Reason: To Become One of Us. (Heb. 2:14a, 17-18 - Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same...Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted).

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ knows intimately of our pain, suffering, loss, loneliness, and sorrow because He became one of us. Jesus is ever interceding in the behalf of His children before the Father because He knows our fears and weakness. He is not uncaring or unreachable with our hurts and heartaches because he has felt it also because He became one of us. Heb. 4:15 says this about Jesus, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin”; Jesus knows and feels our hurts and sorrows because God the Son came in “flesh and dwelt among us”. The late W.A. Criswell gave a narrative that is fitting to why Jesus became one of us; let me share it with you:

“On a great and extensive plain, the millions and the millions of the earth were gathered before the throne of God. And there sat the mighty Judge of all the earth. And the crowd on that vast plain before the almighty Judge was belligerent and vicious and critical. One of the women, a dark brunette, jerked back her sleeve and exhibited a number of a tattoo incised in her flesh in a Nazi concentration camp. And doubling her fist, she said, “What does God know about this, living up there in heaven and all of the beauties of paradise? What would He know about this?”And a black man jerked down his collar and exhibited an ugly burning scar, where he had been lynched for no other reason than that he was black. And shaking his fist, said, “What would God know about this?”And all through that vast throng there were those who were illegitimate, and there were those who were slaves, and there were those who in indescribable hurt and poverty lived all the days of their lives. And shaking their fists at the Almighty God they said, “What would you know about us, living up there in heaven, where no sorrow ever comes and no death ever appears?” That vast throng appointed a committee, taken from each one of the suffering sections of humanity. And they presented a list of things that God had to do, and God had to experience, if He was going to be the Judge of us. And that list numbered ten.

Number one: If God is to be a judge of earth, first, let Him be born a despised Jew as those in the Nazi concentration camps. And all the throng shouted approval.

Number two: Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none will know who His father is. And again they shouted approval.

Number three: Let Him champion a cause so just, but so radical, that it brings down upon him the hate, condemnation, and eliminating efforts of the establishment and every major tradition and every authority. And they shouted approval.

Four: Let Him be the object of put-downs and ridicule, be spat upon, called demonic and mad. And they shouted affirmation.

Number five: Let Him try to describe what no man has ever seen, touched, or heard. Let Him try to communicate the Almighty God. And they shouted approval.

Number six: Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends.

Number seven: Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge.

Number eight: Let Him experience what it is to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living being.

Number nine: Let Him be tortured and let Him die. Let Him die the most humiliating of deaths. Let Him die with common thieves and the agony of a cross.

Last: Let His name live on, so that for centuries it will be used as a common curse word in moments of rage.

And suddenly, over that vast throng was a silence that could be felt. No one uttered another word, for they suddenly realized that God had already done just that: God, in human flesh, suffering all of the sorrows and agonies that we know in human life. That God is our Lord, and one day our Judge.”

Is. 53: 2-4 puts it best, “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted”. When read of Jesus weeping over the lost Israel, who would reject Him as Lord or when He is with Mary and Martha when Lazarus lay dead in the tomb, even though He has come to raise him from the dead, He weeps for the loss of their brother, lovingly mourns with them. What love, compassion seen in so many places in the Gospels like when He picked up and blessed the little children. Jesus became one of us to know our every hurt, pain, agonies, and sorrow.

II. 2nd Reason: To Reveal the Heart of the Father. (John 1:18 - No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him).

Jesus came to reveal the Father to us, to reveal the heart of the Father. It clearly says in v. 18 that “no one has seen God at any time”, but the Father has revealed the Son who is the physical revelation of God in flesh. Jesus reveals the Godhead, Jesus reveals the Father, makes Him known. The Old Testament revelations of God are partial, glimpses of His glory. But when Jesus walked on the soil of Judea, here was God in the flesh, all of the tender mercy, grace, and compassion in human person of Jesus Christ. John 14:8-9 shows us that Jesus reveals the Father, “Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?”. Jesus came in human flesh in order to reveal the full revelation of what God is really like.

III. 3rd Reason: To Take Away the Sin of the World. (John 1:29 - John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!; 1 John 3:8 - For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil).

The glorious knowledge of this one, greatest reason of why Jesus came in flesh, it was to save us from sin. We were unable and unwilling to be saved from the destructive power of sin, we were not even able to reach up or reach out to God, but God reached out to us with great mercy and grace through Jesus, the eternal and preexistent Son of God. The Apostle Paul tells us in Phil. 2:5-8 this, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. Jesus came and added humanity to His deity in order to be able to die for us on the cross. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by offering Himself as a sinless sacrifice, by His suffering, shed blood, and death on the cross. He came to the cry of anguished human souls trapped in the prison of sin. Jesus didn't come just to minister to the results of sin but He came to destroy the root and cause of our condemnation. To save us and deliver us from the judgment of sin and the sorrow and heartache that follows sin. Jesus did not come to treat the symptoms of sin but to destroy the very cause and root of sin and the power it holds over humanity. But not only save from sin but also to destroy the works of the devil. Satan is the father of sin, the father of lies; Jesus said that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). The world is under Satan's control and he sows disaster, destruction and death but we don't have to fear sin, death or the devil if we know that man named Jesus, that suffered, bled, and died in our place.

Christ came to deliver us from the domain of darkness and transfer us into His kingdom by faith in His name. What's the reason why Jesus came onto this world and became as one of us? To give us the final and ultimate victory from sin, self, and Satan. To bring to us salvation.

I hope that now you have a better understanding of your God and Lord Jesus Christ. I hope that you see His humanity made Him the Savior that He is. After Jesus resurrected, He still kept that sinless humanity with His full Deity. When you pray to Jesus, pouring out your heart to Him remember this, because of His humanity he knows and feels your heartaches, sorrows, pain, joys, or happiness. When you repent of your sins, He understands your weaknesses. But the greatest part of His humanity was that it allowed Him to become a sacrifice for our sins to save us. Thank you Jesus, that you became a man.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Resurrection Of Christ (1 Cor. 15:3,4;12-20)

Resurrection Of Christ

(1 Cor. 15:3,4;12-20)

Verses 3 and 4 are the foundation of Christianity. The death and resurrection of Jesus, it is our hope and the reason and ground of all we believe. We looked at the crucifixion and death of Jesus last week. We saw that our salvation and cleansing from sin was because of the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross at Calvary. But what about the resurrection, what does it mean to us. Well, we know that it means everything for the Christian. Because He lives we have salvation and assurance of eternal life.

I. It Ensures Salvation From Sin - (1 Cor 15:17 - And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins).

If Jesus had not rose again bodily from the grave we wouldn't have had salvation from sin. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then sin prevailed over Him and continues to be victorious over you too. If Jesus remained in the grave, then, when you die you would also stay dead. Furthermore, since "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), were you to remain dead in your sins, death and eternal punishment would be your future. The purpose of trusting in Christ is for the forgiveness of sins, because it is from sin that we need to be saved. "Christ died for our sins" and "was buried, and ... raised on the third day" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If Christ was not raised, His death was in vain, your faith in Him would be pointless, and your sins would still be counted against you with no hope of spiritual life. It is Jesus who gives us spiritual life to us who are spiritually dead.

It says in Col.1:13,14 - “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”. By the power of our resurrected Lord and Savior we have been delivered from sin and our sinful nature. Because He rose from the dead, we know that Jesus is victorious over sin and we who by faith receive Jesus as Savior, knows that He gives us that victory over sin also.

Eph. 2:1-5 shows us exactly what Jesus has done for us and our sinful condition, “2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”; we see in the first 3 verses that Paul describes just how Jesus has made us alive spiritually from our condemned state of our soul. He says Jesus has made us alive from our trespasses and sins, from our spiritual bondage to worldliness, to the devil, and to our own sinful fallen state (spiritually dead). Jesus defeated and destroyed the powerful affect of sin, destroyed the works of the devil, and has given us life for our death sentence.

Verse 4 & 5 shows us through God’s mercy and love He has made us, who are dead in our sins, alive in Christ. If Jesus is to be called the Lord of Life, then He cannot be held down and defeated by death. Jesus himself told Mary and Martha that He was the ‘resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live’; Jesus came not to make bad people into good people but to bring us out of our spiritual death into spiritual life. That’s why Jesus said that He was ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life…’, we were blind and could not see the way, we were living in our life of lies and didn’t know the truth, and we were spiritually dead and lifeless and incapable of having life till Jesus came, died, and resurrected to give us the Way to the Father, the Truth that only He could cleanse us from sin, and Eternal Life is found only by putting our faith into Jesus who is the Lord of Life, victorious over sin, Satan, death, Hell, and the grave. If He was not victorious over death then our faith, our hope, our salvation would have been in vain. If He had not risen from the dead we would have been trapped forever in the bondage of our sins and forever condemned to eternal death.

II. It Ensures Our Eternal Life and Resurrection. (1 Co. 15:18-19 - Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable).

If Jesus had not victorious over death then death would be victorious over us all. Every Old and New Testament saint, and all the faithful and prayerful saints you've known--every other believer in every age also would be in hell. Their faith would have been in vain, their sins would not have been forgiven, and their destiny would be damnation. But because He is our Living and Risen Lord, we can rest assured in the peace of knowing that we have a ‘blessed hope’ and a resurrection from the dead. Death is not the end for the child of God because Jesus has rose victoriously from the dead. The grave, the power of death could not hold Him. Jesus the creator of life is the Lord of Life and death could not hold Him bound up in the grave.

Without Christ's resurrection, and the salvation and blessings it brings, Christianity would be pointless and pitiable. Without the resurrection we would have no Savior, no forgiveness, no gospel, no meaningful faith, no eternal life, and we could never have hope for any of those things. How could we ever believe His promise that He “would never leave us or forsake us even until the end of the world”, if He never rose from the dead.

To have hoped in Christ alone in this life would be to teach, preach, suffer, sacrifice, and work entirely for nothing. If Christ is still dead, then He not only has no ability to save you in the future, but He can't help you now either. If He were not alive, where would be your source of peace, joy, or satisfaction now? The Christian life would be a mockery, a charade, a tragic and cruel joke. Christians who suffer and even die for the faith would be just as blind and pathetic as those "believers" who followed Jim Jones and the People's Temple, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, and Marshall Applewhite and the Heaven's Gate cult. How could we believe that there is a Heaven, a place prepared by Christ, or the hope of His promise that our soon returning King would return to take us Home, if He never rose from the grave.

Since a Christian has no Savior but Christ, no Redeemer but Christ, and no Lord but Christ, if Christ is not raised, He is not alive, and our Christian life is lifeless. We would have nothing to justify our faith, our Bible study, our preaching or witnessing, our service for Him or our worship of Him, and nothing to justify our hope in this life or the next. We would deserve nothing but the compassion reserved for fools.

BUT, God did raise "Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:24-25). “Because Christ lives, we too shall live” (John 14:19). "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:30-31).

We are NOT to be pitied, for Paul immediately ends the dreadful "what if" section by saying, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Paul said at the end of his life, "I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him [i.e. his life] until that day" (2 Timothy 1:12).

Those who do not hope in Christ alone for salvation are the real fools; they are the ones who need to hear your compassionate testimony about the triumph of Christ's resurrection. So don't forget the resurrection; rejoice in it and glory in it, for He is risen indeed.

III. It Ensures that He is the Son of God

In all the miracles and healings and mighty works that Christ did to declare His Deity; the greatest sign that absolutely, positively proved that He was the Son of God was His resurrection from the dead. If Christ had stayed in the grave He would not have been God; He would not have been Savior (because the only One who could forgive sins is God); and if He stayed dead He would been an imposter and a liar. But He was God, He was our Savior and He cleansed our sins by His sinless blood sacrifice on the cross and conquered sin by His resurrection from the dead. You see the wages of sin is death but by His victory over death He destroyed the power and penalty of sin because God the Son conquered death for His children. All of His teachings and promises and words of our Lord are validated by His resurrection. It proves that He is God.

I want to end with this verse; (1 Cor 15:57 KJV) “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Crucifixion Of Christ (Matt. 27:26b-37)

The Crucifixion Of Christ

(Matt. 27:26b-37)

When reading the passages of scripture on the crucifixion, I kept seeing the suffering of Jesus in my mind as I had saw it in the movie ‘The Passion’. Thinking of the scourging, the beating, and how He was nailed on that cross and saying to myself why it had to be that way. There had been others crucified and scourged and who had suffered, but the difference that day was who was being crucified. Today, let’s look at the crucifixion closer and try to see it better and come away from it with a fresher understanding and a more thankful heart.

I. Before the Crucifixion

A. The Garden (Matt. 26:36-46) - We see here in passage in Mt. 26 that Jesus has come to the Garden of Gethsemane (means ‘Olive Press’) with the disciples. He has come to pray and enters further in the garden with Peter, James, and John. This passage mentions in verse 37 that Jesus is ‘sorrowful and very heavy’, this means that he is grieved and distressed and even verbalizes that fact to these three. He is feeling the immense stress and when He prays, He asks the Father, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” and later prays in v. 42, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done”. Jesus is not fearing death, the cup is not the cup of death but it represents the wrath of God against sin. In that moment, the sin of the world was being ‘poured’ on Jesus. He was going to bear our sins on that cross and die for our sins in our place; He took the punishment and penalty for our sin for us. 2 Co. 5:21 says that, ‘For he hath made him to be sin for us’, Jesus took our place and took the wrath of God for us. The taking on of the overwhelming weight of the sin of the world was a great stress on our Lord because we see that in Luke 22:34 it tells us that, “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground”, now this is actually a known medical condition called hematidrosis. It is caused by great psychological stress which causes a release of chemicals that breaks down the capillaries in sweat glands which results in a small amount of bleeding in the glands and when sweat is released it is tinged with blood. We see our sinless Lamb taking our sins on Himself and the great weight causes our Lord great stress. He was the only One who could do it.

B. The betrayal and arrest (vv.47-68) we all know the Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and they came and arrested Jesus and took to the High Priest Caiaphas. The disciples had fled away into the night and Jesus was before the Sanhedrin council and they charged Him with blasphemy for they rejected Jesus as the Messiah. They also pronounced a death sentence, beat, and mocked Him.

C. Before Pilate, the crowd, and the scourging (Mt. 27:11-31)- in chapter 27:11, we see Jesus has now been brought to Pilate. He is questioned by Pilate and Pilate says in the passage from John that he could find no fault in Him. When the crowd was given a choice to release a prisoner by Pilate, he gave them a choice between Jesus and a criminal named Barabbas. The crowd there cried out they wanted Barabbas and when Pilate asked what they wanted to do with Jesus and the crowd cried out ‘crucify him!’. This was probably a lot of the same crowd that had cried out only days before ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord’ when Christ rode in on that donkey when He entered Jerusalem. When Pilate expressed that he felt Jesus was innocent it says in v. 23 that the crowd cried out even more, “Let Him be crucified”. Pilate washes his hands before them and says that he is innocent of this man’s blood and the crowd answers and says, “His blood be on us, and on our children”; the fact of the matter is that we are all guilty of the death of Jesus Christ and none of us are innocent of His shed blood, it is because of our sins that He came, suffered, and died on that cross. Barabbas is released and Jesus is then scourged and delivered over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. Scourging was a practice used by the Romans that involved a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls and sharp pieces of bone woven into them. It was usually consisted of 39 lashes but depending upon the mood of the soldier chosen to give the lashes it most likely was more. Needless to say the flogging would be from the shoulders down the back and buttocks to the back of the legs. It would rip and tear skin and muscle down to even exposure of the spine and bowel. It was a horrible thing to be scourged and many would die just from being scourged and the loss of blood. Then the soldiers mocked him, spit on him, and drove a crown of thorns upon His head.

II. Crucifixion (vv.32-44)

We now come to the place of the crucifixion; as horrible as the scourging was crucifixion was even more horrible. When one was crucified, they had to carry the cross beam part of the cross called the patibulum to the place where the execution was to be carried out. When they would arrive the vertical part of the cross would already be placed in the ground. They would take the condemned and nail him to part he carried. The 5-7 inch spikes and nailed him to through the wrists. Note that the wrist was considered part of the hand in the language of the day. If it was through the palms, the skin would have torn and would have fallen off the cross; the spike thru the wrists lock the hands in place and was a solid place to secure the condemned. Part of the torture involved in nailing thru the wrists is that the nail would go through the place where the median nerve runs to the hand. It would crush the nerve and cause intense pain; it like the feeling of hitting your funny bone but this pain is constant and it would be like taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve. The pain would be unbearable and Jesus was feeling that pain. The pain was literally beyond words to describe; in fact they invented a new word for it and that word: excruciating. Excruciating means ‘out of the cross’. They had to make a new word for that intense anguish and suffering felt on the cross. The cross beam was raised and attached to the vertical beam and then a spike was driven thru the feet also hitting a nerve with a similar intense pain as the others. Upon being raised on the cross the arms would be stretched at least 6 inches and the shoulders would become dislocated. Once hanging in that vertical position, crucifixion was a slow painful death caused by asphyxiation. Because of the position of crucifixion, Christ had to push Himself up by His feet to exhale and relax back down to inhale. Eventually a person would die do to being to exhausted to push themselves up to keep breathing. This is the great physical pain and agony endured by Christ out of His love for lost and sinful mankind. And we see in the Garden and at the cross the great psychological and physical suffering Jesus faced for our sins.

III. His Death (vv.45-53)

It talks in v.45 that there was a great darkness over all the land. This was not an eclipse, because they knew what an eclipse was and there is no record of any eclipse at this time period. This was a supernatural occurrence performed by God the Father. But what was the reason? At His death there is darkness from the sixth hour until the ninth hour. The Jews begin to measure their day from 6 A.M., the sixth hour is noon. From noon to three it was dark. Mark 15:25 says, “He was crucified at the third hour”, that’s 9 A.M. So the first three hours He was hanging there visible, naked before the watching people in the light. Those three hours passed. Soldiers had nailed Him there. They had placed the sign over His head. He is suspended there in the horrific indignity as the passers-by, the soldiers, the curious, the religious leaders watched and mocked and insulted Him. During that three hours He only broke the silence three times. Once He said to the soldiers, of the soldiers to the Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. The second time He spoke to a penitent thief at His side and said, “Verily, this day you will be with Me in paradise”. Once more He broke the three-hour silence looking down at Mary and John, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son” pointing to John. And to John, “Behold your mother” thus giving her into the care of John. In the light He said three things. All three of them were demonstrations of mercy, mercy toward the soldiers, mercy toward the thief, mercy toward Mary. Each was a revelation of the light of His grace, the shining beauty of His compassion. Darkness in the Scripture is a symbol of judgment; God’s salvation is always seen as light. God’s judgment is always seen as darkness and God was saying by the darkness that the cross was a place of judgment. This is not an indication of a judgment to come in the future, this is a judgment in itself right then and there. And God only judges one thing, what is it? Sin. God turned out the lights because this was a judgment on sin. And yet, the One receiving the judgment was sinless, a Lamb without blemish and without spot, holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners, Hebrews 7:26 says. “In all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”. Second Corinthians 5, “Him who knew no sin.” What is happening there then is a judgment on sin being borne by an innocent sacrifice. Isaiah 53 verse 4, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried, yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well being fell on Him and by His scourging we are healed. The Lord caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him”. It further says, “The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief, rendering Him a guilt offering He will bear their iniquities and justify many”. Paul put it this way. Romans 4:25, “He was delivered for our offenses”; First Corinthians 15:3, “He died for our sins”; First Peter 2:24, “Who in His own self bore our sins in His body on the tree”; First Peter 3:18, “He died the just for the unjust”; First John 4:10, “God sent His Son to be the atonement for our sins”; Galatians 3:13, He became a “curse for us”; and in Matthew 20:28 it says, “He came to give His life a ransom for many”. Mt. 25:46, “And about the ninth hour, three o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’” As the darkness came to an end, as the darkness reached three o’clock from noon, the life of Jesus is almost at an end. The fury of God is almost spent. Judgment is almost over. But Jesus can contain the pain no longer and it’s not the pain of nails and it’s not the pain of a crown, and it’s not the pain of wounds of scourges rubbing against a ragged wooden beam, it is the pain of separation from the Father. And with great strength, He cries out where the real agony comes from, and it doesn’t come from the physical pain, the real agony comes from His soul, the realization, the reality, the agony that He is separated from His Father. I don’t think Jesus in the garden was agonizing over the physical pain that He was about to suffer, He was agonizing over the reality of the sin-bearing and feeling the wrath of God because He knew exactly why He came...He came to be a ransom for many which means He had to come and die in their place, and He knew He would feel the fury of God’s wrath. This is a reverse miracle. This is a supernatural separation, impossible and yet it happened. And while Jesus was not separated from the Father by nature, He was separated from the Father by fellowship. As a sinful child does not cease to be the essence of his father, but by his sin loses the intimate fellowship with his father, so Christ did not cease to be God but lost the intimacy of fellowship with His Father which He had eternally known. He had never been anything but loved by His Father. In fact, it was His Father’s perfect love for Him that caused the Father to put the whole redemptive plan in motion and to redeem lost humanity. It was the Father’s perfect love for the Son that made it all happen. And now, having been loved by His Father perfectly for all eternity, He is treated as if His Father hates Him and His Father turns His back on Him. Why does He do that? “Because He is of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look upon iniquity“, Hab. 1:12, 13. 2 Co. 5:21 says it in a nutshell, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him“. He took upon Himself the penalty for my sins and your sins and suffered and died in our place. What great love and mercy that He has shown to us the undeserving. As we read that He cried out, like it says in John 19:30, “it is finished“, He said that not because He was dying but because the work of salvation was finished and complete. Heb 10:10, “…we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”. The salvation of our souls that we receive through faith in Christ is an eternal salvation because Jesus gives us a complete work of salvation that was accomplished by the suffering and death on the cross for those who are the sons and daughters of God, once for all. There is nothing else to do, no good works, no religious effort on our part because it is only through the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus on the cross.

Because of the suffering and death on the cross by our sinless Lord Jesus, we are now partakers of His salvation. It is only through Jesus we have salvation, the forgiveness of all our sins. Let us, this week especially remember and give God thanks for the awesome work of redemption by King Jesus.

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